Weather Outlook: Cloudy Thurs thru Sat, 60% chance of showers on gameday, but clearing towards kickoff. Highs in mid 60s, lows in mid 50s, light winds.
If you've found our little blog, you already know the standard Husky stuff: new coaching staff, winless 2008, athletic QB, nice venue, guardedly optimistic fanbase.
Stuff you may not know?
-- The Huskies were Co-National Champs in 1991 with Miami, and have 15 conference titles, including winning the very first PAC-10 title in 1916, and their most recent was in 2000 (3-way with Oregon and Oregon State).
-- The Huskies are 15-14-1 all-time in bowl games with their last appearance in the 2002 Sun Bowl (24-34 loss to Purdue).
-- Sarkesian is the 27th Head Coach of the program. Don James took the Huskies to the National Championship in 1991 in his 17th year as Head Coach.
-- Washington is 2-5 against SEC teams all-time, with wins against Florida and Mississippi St, and losses to Alabama (x4) and LSU (x1). Interestingly, the Mississippi St game was actually a loss, but the Bulldogs had to forfeit the game later due to an ineligible player.
(Incidentally, LSU is 12-3 against PAC-10 teams all-time with a winning or even record against all teams they've played except - wait for it - STANFORD! Played them once, lost 24-14 in 1977 Sun Bowl.)
-- Big name NFL players: Warren Moon (QB) and Steve Emtman (DL).
Enough of that. :) What does it all mean? Washington has a proud football heritage, has a good history of competing nationally and in their conference, and hasn't done anything since about 2002. And by haven't done anything, I mean they're 25-59 (.423) from 2002-2008. It's a pretty stark turnaround and their fanbase has to be hurting mightily.
Washington's Offense vs. LSU's Defense. Jake Locker has wheels and is a great athlete. Is he a great college QB? Washington fans will find out this year, because he sat out most of last year with an injury. In Locker, LSU faces what some folks call a poor man's Tim Tebow. Whatever. I don't think Locker has anywhere near Tebow's influence on his teammates, his power, his finesse throwing the football. Personally, I think Locker looks like a nifty runner for a QB (an upgraded Andrew Hatch) with a decent arm. The problem for Washington is that they don't have enough high quality skill players to keep LSU from putting a spy on Locker almost every play.
Without going into a roster exercise, let me wrap it up with the following sample quotes from an article (Scout, $$) I read recently about the last Washington scrimmage prior to this week's LSU prep:
The offense looked out of sync and very bad at times. Jake Locker was
rushed and receivers dropped balls.
And about the offensive line:
It is not the most imposing of lines, but the left side of the line seems
experienced enough and may be able to do the job. However, the right side is going to get tested, and oh are they young.
By contrast, LSU's defense is going to be vastly improved over last season. Hell, the defense was vastly improved by the time the Chik-fil-A Bowl rolled around. If Washington's defense (a defense Locker and the offense see every day) can dominate in a scrimmage, imagine the challenge LSU's defense is going to present. Containing Locker will be the order of the day on Saturday, because he's not going to have time to throw and will get flushed out of the pocket a lot. I think Alem, Levingston, and the LBers are going to be visiting Locker all evening and he's going to throw a couple of picks.
LSU's Offense vs. Washington's Defense. The Husky defense is likely going to challenge LSU's offense in the first half. The defensive line is fairly stout, led by Daniel Te'o Nieshiem. There's also a good bit of depth there relative to the rest of the team. The linebackers seem solid as well. But the Huskies are not boasting a very good defensive backfield, and have significant vulnerabilities at cornerback. I look for LSU to try to establish the run early and wear down the defensive line. But the key, in my opinion, will be pass protection for Jordan Jefferson. If JJ has time, he will be able to pick the Washington secondary apart. Terrance Toliver, with his length, should have a coming out party of sorts. The wildcard here will be turnovers and penalties. If LSU maintains it's stingy fumble-free offense, and Jefferson can avoid interceptions, I don't see how Washington's secondary can contain the weapons that LSU will present.
Special Teams. I have no idea. Helton and Jasper are getting good reviews from the coaches. And their fall stats, at least what's been released, sound good. Washington's kicker seems to be making his coaches happy. I think Trindon Holliday is always a threat, and Ron Brooks will probably have a good year returning as well. But I'm not willing to call this one.
We'll call it even.
Intangibles. Both of these teams are hungry. Very hungry. UW is sick and tired of mediocrity. You can sense it on their message boards, and you only have to look at their football history to know that the last 6 or 7 years have been gut wrenching for true Husky fans. Likewise, the team and coaches are going to be out to prove that a PAC-10 team can handle an SEC powerhouse. On the other sideline, LSU will be looking to take their 8-5 frustrations out on their first opponent. This will be a grudge game, and the grudge won't be against Washington, it'll be against the memory of last season. Washington fans and players may not fully understand this because it's a different perspective. Theirs is the perspective LSU had during the Archer/Hallman years. It's hard to understand how bad 8-5 feels when your team just went 0-12. Anyway - both teams hungry, but LSU has more to prove and more to lose.
WRAP-UP: LSU jumps on the Huskies early thanks to turnovers and big plays. Washington makes a short run to get it closer, but LSU is ahead by 14 by halftime.
Final score: 45-7 LSU.